Frugality has always been a big part of my life. I like to buy things used when I can, and I hate spending money on consumables. My family has some pretty ambitious homesteading goals that require us to save up as much money as we can, and it’s pretty bad for the environment to waste stuff – especially plastics. On top of that, I try to keep my home as chemical-free as possible, because chemicals are bad for you. I learned a whole bunch of tips and tricks from my mom, and more on my own as an adult, and I thought I’d share a few of them here.
Why Make DIY Toilet Cleaner?
Of all the parts of my house, my toilet is probably the thing I am most anal about cleaning because it’s where you poop. Guys, poop is gross. Like, actually gross with icky bacteria and stuff.
Heh. ANAL about keeping clean. POOP.
I clean my toilet pretty frequently, and dislike buying toilet bowl cleaner for several reasons.
Toilet cleaners universally have all sorts of warning labels on them. Don’t touch them, don’t inhale their fumes, don’t eat them.
Well, not eating them is OK, but if you have to breathe while you’re cleaning and I don’t know about you, but my BATHROOM isn’t exactly known for it’s large windows and exceptional ventilation. Not only that, but not touching the cleaners can be hard if you tend to drop and spill things, like me.
Let’s break it down:
- Fragrance: Most toilet cleaners have horrible scents added to them. A lot of people like these scents; but they make me want to gag more than poo-poo smell does. Plus, fragrances tend to have nasty endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals in them, and I don’t want that, thanks.
- Chlorine Bleach: Chlorine bleach is OK if it’s used in a well ventilated area. It’s not particularly bad for the environment, and it doesn’t accumulate and cause health issues via pollution. But once again, my bathroom is not well-ventilated and it’s super toxic when you breath it in. It also smells terrible, requiring the use of the more-harmful “fragrance” to cover up the odor.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: This stuff is pretty bad for the environment, particularly aquatic life. Even this shampoo manufacturer who advocates for the safety of SLS admits that it’s an environmental concern, as well as that some people may experience irritation or allergies from contact with it. Since you don’t generally touch your toilet cleaner, I’m not worried about it from a health standpoint – but I do like to avoid things that are bad for the environment.
- Hydrochloric Acid: HCl causes severe burns and is part of why you shouldn’t touch toilet cleaner. It’s also bad for the environment.
- Other Stuff: The exact ingredients differ between cleaners, but the Environmental Working Group compiles the ingredients of many household cleaners and cosmetic products, and rates them based on health and environmental concerns. Not all of the concerns listed in the EWG database have robust evidence behind them, but the concerns are worth considering.
As a note, you can find eco-friendly cleaners on the EWG website. But they usually cost more than regular cleaners, and I object to that.
While not expensive, per se, It does cost at least $2 for a bottle of toilet cleaner, more if you opt for a fancier or more environmentally friendly brand. If I can make an effective cleaner for a few cents per bottle, I’m going to do that. Is a bottle of toilet cleaner going to break my budget? No, of course not. But saving a bit here and there DOES add up.
Although I don’t typically eat or touch my toilet cleaner, small children might. It’s recommended that parents store cleaners in a secure location, and if a child gets into a cleaner it can result in burns, kidney failure, eye irritation, lung irritation, and more. Pets can also get into cleaners, and my cat is kinda dumb and eats everything, including things that aren’t food – we already had to get her surgery once, after she at a Nerf dart! Cleaners don’t pose a hazard very often, but it’s no harder to “make your own” than it is to use the store-bought stuff…so why risk it?
DIY Toilet “Cleaner” Recipe
- Sprinkle some baking soda into your toilet bowl. I keep a gigantic (cheap) bag of baking soda under my bathroom sink with a 1/4 c. measuring cup in it for sprinkling. Make sure you get the baking soda on any stains that might be in the toilet.
- Pour vinegar around the rim of the toilet bowl, just like you would a toilet bowl cleaner. Without the specialized toilet cleaner bottles, you can’t quite get it up under the rim, but you can get it close.
- Watch the baking soda and vinegar get fizzy and dislodge dirt and ickiness.
- (optional): Sprinkle toilet bowl with borax and scrub, then flush. Borax is a whitener and is great at stain removal. I only do this if I have a particularly bad stain, like if somebody barfs or has a poop-splosion. You can purchase borax in the laundry aisle at most grocery stores.
- Scrub with your toilet brush, like you would normally. Flush the toilet.
- Spray the toilet bowl with full-strength vinegar. While you’re at it, spray the toilet seat, handle, and outside of the toilet seat. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. While I’m waiting, I clean the rest of the bathroom.
- Flush the toilet to “rinse” the surface clean, and wipe down the toilet seat and exterior. You’re done! Clean, sanitized toilet!
NOTE: The vinegar in the first step is just to help dislodge dirt and stains. Since you are combining vinegar (acid) with baking soda (base), the reaction that occurs neutralizes both ingredients. It also works really well for getting caked on junk off of stuff. But it does NOT disinfect until you spray the vinegar on the toilet bowl by itself. You technically could just scrub the dirt off with baking soda, but the fizzy reaction that occurs when you add vinegar makes it easier.
Does Vinegar REALLY Kill Germs?
Yes & no. It definitely kills germs, provided you let it sit for a few minutes. If you wipe it off immediately, it won’t do much good.
However, that’s true of most household cleaners – if you read the directions, they pretty much all require a “set time” before wiping them off the surface. Any cleaner needs time to kill the germs; it doesn’t happen immediately.
But no, it is not 99.9% effective at killing germs the way some household cleaners are. Specifically, it doesn’t kill Staphylococcus aureus, including the strain that causes MRSA.
However. MRSA (and staph in general) is also spread through skin-to-skin contact and from touching objects that other people touched. The bacteria then gets into your body via open wounds or sores. It’s super common in hospitals and medical facilities, not so common in your house.
You’re probably not going to get it through your personal toilet bowl. You’re much more likely to get it from door handles, or desks, or shopping carts, or pretty much anything that you touch in public.
Besides, MRSA can be removed from skin simply by washing your hands, and the CDC says that normal laundry processes remove it from clothing, despite the fact that laundry detergent does NOT include disinfectants that would normally kill MRSA. I couldn’t find any studies showing that flushing the toilet dislodges MRSA, but if you can dislodge it from your hands with water, then I would GUESS that it’s not really an issue inside your toilet, particularly if you scrub your toilet with any form of cleaner – like the baking soda listed above.
But if you’re really worried about it, thyme essential oil has been well-documented to be effective against MRSA, so you could put a few drops in some rubbing alcohol and spray the toilet down with that as well.
But I don’t do that. I just use the vinegar. It works fine.